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A quick check in conversation shows that both my children understand quite a bit about fractions. I must try to find some slices-of-pie toys for them to play with.

I’m not sure when it becomes important to bring manipulating fractions from conversation to working on paper. I remember learning how to do it at school but not what I already knew.

Linnea is four-and-a-half now and we met the woman who used to be our local librarian, before the library closed for refurbishments. We met her at the rehomed Singalong session in the church next door to the library, and she was delighted to see us. She sat down to chat to Linnea and very quickly she asked “How old are you?” and “How high can you count? Can you count up to twenty?”

Linnea, brilliantly, said “No, I don’t have twenty fingers. I only have ten.”

Some discussion of toes ensued.

Then the librarian asked “Are you going to teach her her times tables?” to which I said “I’m sure she’ll learn them when she sees they’re useful.” “Oh, because I learned mine and I can still remember instantly – instantly! – any of them.”

All I could come up with in response to that was “I can’t.”

Oh, and I showed her how to do the nine times tables on her fingers.

And then Linnea borrowed her fingers to make more sets of three and did some multiplying.

(Linnea is very focussed on three times four and four times three at the moment.)

I was struck by academic-testing-as-conversation, indeed.


After buying shoes, and arguing about snacks, while walking through the centre of town, Linnea to me: “Two and five is seven, Mum.”

Me: Yes.
Linnea: And three and four is seven.
Me: Yes.
Linnea: And six and one, that’s seven too.
Me: Yes, it is. Six and one is seven.

Much later, I realised that this adding up to a number in lots of different ways is something I’ve seen mentioned in books and magazines as a stage in learning maths. Which is fine.

I’m not sure which stage it is.

But at least now I know she’s learning something I can call maths when people ask.

We were adding up – I must get workbooks soon, I am running out of ideas – and suddenly Linnea decided to stop using the little Cuisenaire blocks and skip straight to writing the numbers in, filling the blocks in afterwards.

She finds it frustrating that she can’t write her numbers accurately enough.

I think I need to design or obtain worksheets with dot-to-dot numbers and letters, and do something about worksheets for doing sums. As I was drawing little boxes for her to fill in I vaguely remembered having something similar for school but I’m not sure where to get it; none of what I’ve seen in high street stores hereabouts is appropriate.

Twenty-five minutes of solid sums is as much as she wanted to do today. That seemed like a lot to me – I was getting tired of facilitating her.

So, real live schooly learning is happening, but we haven’t called it that yet. It’s playing numbers. Me and my new laminator are making worksheets with number games; I’m going to rope Daddy in for the shapes one. Counting, writing numbers, reading numbers, linking counted items to written numbers, place value…

I can’t work out how to do place value without some tools. Rods, bricks, that sort of thing. I must find a source.

Oh – and the name of the number 0 is “Zero-nothing.” I find this almost as cute as “The dark is brilliant, isn’t it, Mammy?”

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